CLEARWATER — It was only a regular-season match with no district implications, but Tuesday night’s volleyball showdown between Clearwater Central Catholic and Bishop McLaughlin had a playoff atmosphere. That’s probably because both schools have high postseason expectations.
The Marauders, the top-ranked team in the Tampa Bay Times’ rankings, outlasted the Hurricanes, the second-ranked team, 26-24, 25-23, 12-25, 25-22. It’s the second time this season that CCC has defeated Bishop McLaughlin. The other win came in the final of the prestigious Berkeley Premier Tournament.
Both teams are in Class 3A. CCC is ranked eighth in the state by MaxPreps. Bishop McLaughlin is ranked 13th. The Hurricanes are the top seed in District 5. CCC is the top seed in District 6. Calvary Christian isn’t far behind the Marauders and could shake things up. But a rematch of Tuesday’s match is a likely scenario.
“I hope so,” Bishop McLaughlin coach Doug Chinchar said. “We’ve got to win first.”
It was apparent from the first set that whoever won this match was going to have to earn it. CCC jumped out to an early 6-1 lead, but that didn’t last. The Hurricanes (20-3) chipped away and eventually tied it at 11-11 on a kill by Ali Waldon. The Marauders (15-3) got some breathing room when they went on a 5-0 run to go up 18-13.
Bishop McLauglin came right back to tie it 19-19, which made it apparent the set was going to come down to the final points. It was CCC that got those points. Tied at 24, Linsey Harrison had a kill and Victoria Hensley ended it with another.
The second set was about the same. Both teams shared leads until it was tied at 22. Maddie Snider had a kill to give the Hurricanes a one-point lead, but that didn’t last. Two kills by Harrison and one by Hensley gave CCC a 2-0 lead.
Bishop McLaughlin was not messing around in the third set. It jumped out to a 6-0 lead and never really let the Marauders back into it. Big kills from Audrey Koenig put the set away early.
“It think it’s human nature to think that you’ve got it when you go up by two,” CCC coach Stephen Shepherd said. “Once momentum swings it’s hard to get back. So I just told them to do the same things they did in the first two sets. A little bit of work ethic to get the momentum back.”
The Marauders did get it back. They held a 17-10 lead before the Hurricanes cut it to 18-15. It got as close as 23-21, but CCC scored two of the next three points to end it.
“Our passing was the key,” said Harrison, who had 14 kills and 23 digs. “That’s the make it or break it for us. When we are playing really well it’s because we’re passing well.”
Brooke Green and Kasey Singer each had nine kills for the Marauders. Hensley had eight aces.
Bishop McLaughlin was led by Koenig’s 23 kills. Waldon added 12 and Snider had 10.
“We didn’t pass as well as we wanted to,” Chinchar said. “When we did pass well we looked great. They had some kids who served well and that’s when we struggled. We couldn’t get out of our way sometimes, but we were able to come back, which is big for us.”